For a culture to develop, it is necessary that its people are free to explore the questions of free thought, speech, and belief. Putting restrictions on what people can think or feel is a surefire way to repress creativity and innovation, and stagnate the culture of a society. China is a good example of how censorship destroys a fascinating civilization.
Censorship stifling creativity
China has a very long history that dates back thousands of years. And everything from Chinese culture, whether it be martial arts, music, or spirituality, is admired the world over. Yet, this fact also underlines a major problem — everything that people admire about China lay solely in its past.
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Modern China, built on the foundation of oppression and censorship by the Communist Party, has literally contributed nothing to Chinese culture. In contrast, it has actually repressed the creative potential of the Chinese people.
“Censorship pours cold water on creativity. There are entire events and topics, like the Tiananmen protests and crackdown, that are completely off-limits at the moment. It’s tough to push the envelope when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. And that’s a shame because China and modern Chinese history are so ripe for all sorts of intellectual, artistic, and cultural exploration”, Juliana Liu, senior editor of Inkstone, writes in a Forbes article.
Censorship has made Chinese people afraid of thinking outside the box. Instead, most people are pretty satisfied living their lives within the dictates of the Communist regime. And those who escape from the country immediately sense the difference between people from mainland China and those who have grown up in a democracy.
“My middle-school classmates who remained in China think very different from the study abroad groups … It’s nearly impossible to escape and become an independent thinker”, The Globe and Mail quotes a Chinese-born student of Columbia University, who also said that she would find it very difficult to go back home and live in a 1984-like society.
And with independent, creative Chinese people deciding to settle abroad rather than lead mundane lives back in the country, China essentially ends up losing the very people who could have defined modern Chinese culture and given its people something to be truly proud of.
Censorship threatening innovation
Chinese censorship also affects the innovative drive in people. Since they have been raised in a society that values obedience rather than questioning, China essentially ends up losing out in innovation when compared to Western nations.
“Ideas [for innovation] can come from everywhere… Even social issues like dumping dead pigs into the Huangpu River can stimulate ideas for social innovation. But the government is fearful of ideas that could cause social unrest, so the benefits of free ideas are not coming out yet in China”, A Chinese-born US-educated woman says in an interview with The Atlantic.
The entire culture of China that the Communist Party has crafted, right from the strong censorship laws that prevent people from fully exploring other cultures, strict rules that make people afraid of thinking different other than the government narrative, and poor intellectual property rights that exist in the country, is all dragging down Chinese culture into irrelevance.
If China has to regain its once awe-inspiring culture, then the government better start allowing people to think freely rather than being afraid of their ideas. Else, all talk by the Communist Party about making China a “great country” will simply remain an unfulfilled dream. But when the central tenets of communism dictate violence and destruction, it is hard to bring back past glory with the Chinese Communist Party still in power. The Chinese have to start realizing that you can’t have both.